tv [untitled] May 10, 2012 3:30pm-4:00pm EDT
>> -- that is the last century. and we don't have national plans for how to be part of a global economy. we don't have national plans about how to be part of it in terms of information and ideas. >> but before we see a little bit of video from around the world, i have to bring us -- i realize you said let's try to ignore political realities at this moment. but despite the unity among the panelists of the need for more public funding of journalism, the simpson-bowles recommendation for the public broadcasts was zero. eliminated. as said, everybody's cutting and people do recognize the spending problem in washington. realistically, can we say something about another model that's out there apart from public support? >> i think push-back slightly -- i think perhaps it's broader. you've seen a trend with commercial news companies where there's more -- it's gone more and more towards news properties that are owned by large
companies of which news is only one very small part of their business. and, you know, certainly that my former employer was this way, where it sort of went from a family company to being something where the stock price was paramount and ratings were paramount. and so part of it, i think, is not necessarily only, is it public-private funding, but what kind of private funding? and is it a private funding that takes a long-term view? and that considers news to be a public trust? or is it the kind of public funding that only cares about quarterly earnings? and i think that's also part of the picture. and, you know, there used to be a time when you had a lot more family-owned newspapers, where they're like, as long as you break even and a little bit of profit, we don't need to maximize returns for shareholders. you know. so there are different ways to approach the news business as a business as well. but i think the key is to look
at what is public value, and how are you creating it, and who's responsible for supporting it? maybe we need to look further than just government and tax dollars. >> maybe there's a role for universities. so we fund "the columbia journalism review" with great, great pride. it's one of the real treasures of columbia. for a while, i toyed with the idea, facetiously, during the crisis, of using part of the columbia endowment to purchase the new york times. and then we would run the like a medical hospital and we would train our journalists and others -- >> how long did you harbor this? and was there a trustees meeting at the time? >> until i said it out loud. >> can i respond quickly? i would -- to rebecca's point about the great golden age of the family-run newspaper.
as it happens, we are now owned by an old newspaper family. >> thompson. >> the thompsons. so we experience a little bit of that now. but i would point out that it wasn't purely being benign, it was also lee's point. the margins on newspapers were fantastic. these were monopolies, they were making tons of money, it wasn't that hard to be benign. and i do think also, you know -- there is different kinds of private capital. but private capital, you know, there is -- the old goldman sachs, goldman sachs and gus levy used to talk about, we believe in long-term greed rather than short-term greed. that can be true i think of the new -- bloomberg would probably characterize himself that way too. to the university point, i think that's an excellent point and actually one of the things we
were talking about twitter, i was going to say one of the things i love about twitter is for me, it opens up academia. i don't read economics research papers, i don't read the journals as part of my normal life. but twitter for me points out interesting papers a lot. and i now probably read two or three papers a week because someone points them out. and this isn't what you would think of as classic journalism. but i do think that the internet has moved the academy much more into the business of what journalism used to do in a way that's fantastic. >> i think that's an interesting -- >> to which i would just add that in most of the country geographically, one would expect to find a public radio station system that i'm part of licensed to a local university. typically a state university. >> right. >> that role is very important there. here's some really inexpensive journalism, or at least video. this is from citizens tube. and this is a new way, a completely new way in which many of us saw what was happening during the arab spring. we're going to see a little bit of video. first from egypt, then from syria. let's roll egypt first.
[ chanting ] >> i think we're all used to this experience. there's no narration. we can see a tremendous number of people. we're not being given a crowd estimate by anyone. but this is a kind of citizen journalist video of a story that was simultaneously being covered by mass media. sometimes with some interference from the authorities. it's a -- there's that sort of international global rhythm of the protest chant that's been adapted for tahrir square. i think the interesting contrast i find is with our next video, which is from syria, where news organizations have been able to get the occasional visa for their reporter who hangs out in beirut, knocking on the door.
anthony shadid as we know obviously, entered through another border and gave his life entering this country. syria is a story that we largely see through videos of this kind. this was a peaceful gathering. >> you video people can make your judgments about how well it's been shot. i don't know. >> poorly. >> poorly is what i hear from someone. it's a large crowd. >> but there's no professional there to document this protest otherwise. >> otherwise, nobody would see this. you know, part of what i see when i see these videos coming from -- originally out of local radio. a truly cheap medium. is they're supplying footage to
people on television who are going to be able to look like they actually covered something. in and of itself, a wonderful contribution. but are they giving the completely -- the television network that has no interest in covering any news at all, the pictures to show that, hey, we can read wire copy over these images as well as anyone? >> i don't think that's the value. you know. i think to look at it in that way would not be right. i mean, the issue that people point out is that if you're relying only on stuff off of youtube, you have issues of verification, you have all kinds of issues. there's a reason why you want to have professionals on the ground when you can. but in the case of syria, particularly, there's been a lot going on in syria that professionals simply have been unable to document. and when you have people self-documenting what's happening, that has changed, i think, a great deal of the dynamic in terms of what we understand with syria. so it's not either/or, it's that
the citizen media that's coming out of a lot of countries is -- i think in the ideal world, it's a symbiotic, synergistic relationship with the professional journalism which, you know, you need people going out and fact-checking and verifying things and so on. i mean, you see with news organizations that rely entirely on agency footage, sometimes they just get things wrong because they haven't done their homework. and so, yeah. you need a combination of different things. >> but this has changed the world. this has totally changed the world. this kind of video. it's changed the way we cover things. we now have -- i mean, there are witnesses. and everybody -- the world is a witness. president assad now has to live with that. he has to operate with that assumption. i don't know how long he'll last in this new world that he finds himself in. maybe quite a while. but it utterly changes the way he and others like him have to think. and it is a tool for us.
of course as rebecca said, we have to be very careful. we have to make sure -- we spend money actually trying to verify that video was shot in a place it's claimed to have been shot. sometimes it hasn't been. sometimes things are -- it's a demo from three weeks earlier or it's the wrong place. >> would you run video saying, we can't really verify? >> yes. if it has a real news value to it, if it shows something that really matters, we'll say so. we'll say, this is claimed to be "x." we have every reason to believe it is but we don't know so take it for what it's worth. >> what's interesting for me, robert, there's actually huge demand among people consuming news for this kind of stuff. and what we've discovered, you know, we are the aforementioned producers of the agency video that people read agency copy over on broadcast tv. it's a huge business for us. and actually, what we've found is one of our producers had an idea of, why not just put little clips of this stuff when the
arab spring happened, why not put it on the websites? we do something called rough cuts where we put two or three-minute things no, reporter narrates, probably placed where there was a video camera. these are our most popular videos online. actually it turns out a lot of watchers or web users aren't that interested in the voice of god telling them what happened at the demonstration. they're quite happy to see two or three minutes of what in fact happened. >> i would say very quickly that -- i find it helpful to think about the role of institutions in our world in providing information and ideas. so in general, we have the events that are happening. and journalists of course are that. then we have sort of the midterm thinking where you look at stories, you look at issues in a deeper way, more sustained way. and journalists and investigative journalism has done that. then you have the sort of long-term, really researched things for several years, maybe
many, many years. and universities have done that. great parallel between the role of universities and the role of the press. that you need institutions as part of that. citizen journalists are fantastic. it's a great new thing. but you must have institutions. just imagine if universities were to close down and it were said, look, you can get a course on plato if you want on the internet. so get it when you want it. read your plays and listen to lectures on shakespeare when you want it. why do you need to come and be part of an institution that's a university? and the answer is, it's the culture of the place. it's the professional standards that develop. it's the ability to shift some of those resources. it's the give and take of ideas. >> we should note some other elite universities are toying awfully close with the model that you just described. as a tiny fraction. >> tiny fraction. >> you're not going to do your reading without a deadline anyway.
>> let's look at one more video. this is from greece. this is a -- i think you'll get the picture here. i'm beginning to see that the large crowd demonstration, maybe with security forces nearby, is to sort of viral news videos what the fire at night is for the 11:00 local news. this is the basic scene. let's roll from athens here. this is ironic. because we're looking at this as it happens. right after a greek election, well -- well, the parties that have endorseds austerity deal with europe have lost. 60% of the seats are with parties that oppose greece's deal with europe. oppose austerity. and actually, a party of the extreme right that was giving nazi salutes the night before the election is now in the greek parliament. your sense, one might be confused as to what the swastika is doing in this demonstration. this is an anti-german
demonstration. it's a demonstration against the country's creditors. those demanding austerity. at the end we see the scene that the riot police are fairly testy. of course, as police would always say from every story one ever does, we didn't hear what that person just said to the riot police officer before things got a little nasty. i mean, film. not journalism. not reporting, but video. we see something. is it calculated to just make us sympathize with whoever is being victimized for those five seconds? what do you think of this? krista? a value? >> yeah, definitely a value. and we've been -- here we are in washington, we've been very much talking about this from the developed democracy perspective.
but wherein i see the very greatest value is in authoritarian regimes. you know, we talked a little bit about syria. i think you're seeing a huge impact of social media in russia right now. i think it's going to make not impossible but much harder for fierce repression. sure, part of the reason is whenever they beat somebody up, it's immediately on live journal. and it can actually be counterproductive for the regime. >> lee bollinger, you had a forum on these issues at columbia in which a singaporean government minister spoke. and he made some very crudely this case against the american notion of a first amendment. he basically said, look. we're an island, we're a city-state, a small city-state with big neighbors, we have a very fragile ethnic balance, we prize stability. we have a very open economy. these groups that rate freedom of the press rate us below
guinea and iraq and zimbabwe was the other one. singaporeans aren't killing one another. this is a stable today, and as long as the media operate within certain con straights, so be it. singapore is a very small place. but that seems to be -- there seems to about view out there, certainly in the far east. that you can develop your economy, moving people in larger asian countries like the ones that rebecca covered by the tens to hundreds of millions out of rural poverty, is more important than having an argument about which person should be running which provincial government. we don't need your -- your ideas are culture-bound. what's our answer to that argument? >> well, i think the episode you describe was really i think the highlight of the conference, as you can imagine. in free speech in the united states, free press begins not at the very beginning when the first amendment is put in in the 18th century in the constitution, but in 1919. no supreme court case in the
united states until 1919. and at that moment, three cases come to the supreme court. one of them involves a candidate for president of the united states. eugene debs, socialist party candidate. he gave a speech in ohio, he praised the people who resisted the draft. he's thrown in jail. the supreme court of the united states, in the first case they ever considered, oliver holmes write writing the opinion, say no free speech there. he goes to jail. while in jail he gets 1 million votes. the united states then develops over the next 70 years the most robust protection of free speech in the united states. but it doesn't always live up to it. so we have the mccarthy era and so on. we think that we have the best system. but now we're in a world where we have a global communications system, and censorship anywhere, like singapore, is censorship everywhere. it's not human rights for people in singapore anymore. it's our
interests in knowing what's happening in singapore and our interests in knowing the world. so when the minister of law of singapore says, look, we completely reject your notion, and the reason we reject it is on the merits. it's not because we want to be a repressive government. it's because we believe that you are showing, by the way in which you've construct yord free speech that you cannot have a functioning system. look at the polarization in your society. look at what happens when you let people say anything. look what happens when people can say the judiciary is lying or corrupt. look what happens when people speak disrespectfully about the government. you're getting what it is that that free speech system you like is. and we have a different view. that means -- and singapore minister of law, that's not the only country that believes this by any means. we have to engage with the world on these issues and we have to
begin developing a case for why this should be the norm, if we believe it, as i do, this should be the norm for the world. that's a very hard thing to do. we have to do for the world actually what happened and we did for this country in the last century. >> david ensor, your voa must be full of newscasts about log jams in the congress and budget deals that fall through constantly. is the voa making an active case on behalf of america's approaches to debates and liberty? >> i think there's no more powerful expression of the power -- of the value of freedom and to display it in all of its messy glory. we have audiences in africa, in asia, that are very, very interested in what's happening here. they're also very interested in hearing what's happening in their own countries.
we cover in intimate detail what's happening in northern nigeria for an audience that doesn't get it in a straightforward kind of way from anyone else. so we feel that we're doing something that's valuable for them and that it's in our interests for them to have the real story. >> the issue doesn't break down nation state by nation state. i mean, pakistan recently. pakistan has had a huge debate going on within it recently about censorship. and the government proposing a nationwide internet filtering regime. and a bunch of nongovernmental organizations and activist groups finding a way to band together with business and other interests in the community to say, no, this is actually not what we want. despite the fact that, you know, everybody's afraid of porn. you know. and so a robust debate is going on amongst -- you know, and in india next door. the indian government is
trying to impose increasing amounts of censorship on social media companies and requiring google and facebook and other companies to take down content, to hand user information over to the government and so on. there's a whole -- there's a growing segment of people in the country who are pushing back against this. so part of it is, and i've seen this through our global voices community, there's this global community of people who share certain values about freedom of expression that are increasingly linking together and strategizing to push back. but another thing i just want to say about kind of the american value that i'm hearing a lot from the communities i'm connected with around the world is that while we're quite good on first amendment, freedom of expression, on privacy, on surveillance eh. you're hearing -- >> we're not a credible model? >> i'm hearing from people in egypt, i'm hearing from people
in a lot of different countries, in china, who say my government is using the patriot act and is using this legislation that's getting passed in the house of representatives as an excuse for why blatant, unaccountable surveillance is completely standard international practice and why we should do it too. and with american companies creating the technology that governments, authoritarian governments around the world are using to surveil their citizens and put them in jail. and you talk to syrian activists about this, they get very exercised. and we need -- and this kind of comes down to what is internet freedom? what is free expression on the internet? without reasonable amount of privacy from surveillance? it's going to be very difficult to use the internet as a medium for empowerment. >> there's got to be, there must
be, a larger global discussion about what free speech and free press means on a global state. it has to happen. because we have now the technology. it's only very, very recent. we're sitting in the embodiment of the first amendment. i bet the number of people here who actually know what article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights says from the late 1940s would not be able to describe it. and yet that is the foundational legal document, that is the equivalent of the first amendment on the global stage. and our ignorance about how to make this debate happen on a global stage i think is very troubling. >> so we're talking about debates, values, ideas, laws, all very good. but i think we have to remember it's also about vested interests. so it's not just about nicely,
92 clear language, with good arguments, explaining to the chinese why american values are correct. this is very threatening to regimes that are very powerful. and that's why they don't want it. >> what we supply in china right now is news about the blind lawyer that they're not getting very many other places. should we be supplying that? or should we take the view that singapore is right, we shouldn't bother them? we have clearly decided that that is information that we should have and anyone should have. and has a right to. >> let's take some questions from our audience. you've all been -- first victor's hand shot up before anyone. let's get the microphone to the gentleman in front. >> sitting here thinking what a marvelous panel and i'm agreeing with everybody on it about the importance of public funding, first amendment, no censorship, et cetera, and globalizing the conversation. but i'm worried about technology.
and we did a survey at cjr where we found that -- where we looked at the relationship of magazines to their websites. we found that even a magazine like "the new yorker," probably the best of them, doesn't fact-check for its online stuff with the rigor that the does for its print magazine, arguing that you need speed because you need traffic. even the best of the magazines don't copy edit with the rigor online that they do for their print publications. the online convention is, everyone has a handle, whereas in the traditional media, the convention is that you don't use anonymous sources except where it's absolutely necessary. the traditional media have a separation of advertising and editorial whereas the online world, it's all mixed up together. so the question i have for all the panelists is, how do you
maintain or achieve and uphold appropriate standards to the new technology media in this complicated world that you're all talking about? >> who wants to take that one? >> you know, i'll say one thing. i'll give an example. you know, this doesn't show us in the most wonderful light but i think it does, in a way. we cover russia pretty closely and our internet presence is strong there. and we were played by someone impersonating alexi novani, the blogger. or at least so mr. novani says. to this day we're not able to know for sure. someone impersonating him said some things to us which we put as quoting mr. novali, and he said, no, that wasn't me. and i'm sure it wasn't. but there you are.
what is a responsible news organization supposed to do in that circumstance? you quickly go back and check your source. you go back to where it came from. and we had a way to get to mr. novani. he says it's not him? you quickly, and we immediately, said, mr. novani says this isn't him, how interesting. how interesting. and we of course don't know which agency or entity was impersonating him. but this is the kind of thing that happens on the internet, as you said. and we do have to move quickly. mr. novani's news so if he makes comments that are interesting, people are going to want to quote them. but we've set more strict standards about how to check that you really got him. >> but is it a fair observation that on the internet, i'll ask you, that the notion of saying, we don't quite have this yet, let's hold off until we really nail this down, that that's a real old media thing to say?
if i can say, it's out there, it's been alleged, it's been charged, it will make it on the web? >> i have worked on fleet street as well as in new york. so i will tell you something that i heard in the news room once was, that's too good to check. that's something that fleet street editors realized wasn't a good attitude for young reporters. it's not just about internet versus print. it's about cultures and working at reuters has been a revelation me in that they're a 24/7 culture from the get-go. we tend to think of 24/7 as a new thing but there are news cultures that have been 24/7 forever. and still cared very much about facts. and been very sort of punctilious about checking. so i do think it's a lot about culture. i also think victor is right, that there is more kind of a loosey-goosey cultural acceptance on internet.
yesterday on twitter i followed a debate about politico where the question was, does politico think it's okay to publish that there is a rumor? before they've confirmed is it true or not? then you keep on reporting the rumor and reporting whether it's true or false. that's kind of a cultural choice. not just because the internet exists. i think the pressure of everybody being there and the pressure of -- now i think journalists feel they are competing not just with other journalists but with everybody who has an iphone. adds to that sense of urgency. the only other thing i would say is there's a flip side too. and especially i work a lot now, especially on sort of the build of our new site, with this younger generation of digital natives. and from their point of view, they feel like old media is insufficiently fact checked.
one of the things that drives them crazy is anything that doesn't have a link to the source. so actually being inaccurate with your sourcing is much harder online than it is in print. because you can just go check that link right away. and i think that internet community keeps you a lot -- can keep you a lot more honest. back to those -- the olden days of foreign correspondents, they would write about people who never in a million years were going to see what they wrote. >> over to rebecca. >> in our global voices community all the time, people will say, "new york times" just did such and such a story, half of it came from so-and-so's blog, this other story that i saw somewhere misquoted so-and-so, completely misconstrued what happened. because i was there and i saw it. you know. that certainly adds value. then you've got the other problem where, you know, who